Public History Practicum Reflection

Last semester, I had the opportunity as a senior Public History major to research a topic of my choice and to create a small digital exhibit based off of it for HIS 440, Public History Practicum.

This project was something I was excited to do, as I had recently come off of working at a summer internship at the Anthracite Heritage Museum, which gave me many different ideas for a topic to focus on. Inspired by my visits at Eckley Miner’s village during my internship, and learning about women who practiced herbal medicine, I decided to focus my project on women healers and herbalists.

The topic of women in medicine is very broad, so I decided that I wanted to do a brief overview of the impact of women in medicine and their role as caretakers and healers over time.

I started my project by meeting with Dr. Black and discussing the types of resources, both primary and secondary, that I might want to use. We also discussed potential objects to be used in the exhibit, as well as how they would be situated in the context of the topic itself. She also provided me with handouts that were helpful for planning, writing for, and laying out an exhibit so that it would be easily accessible, understandable, and not confusing to readers.

I finished out my project by finalizing my objects for the digital exhibit, writing object analyses for three of my items, and finishing all the texts (such as introductions to each topic and labels).

I do wish that I could have gone more in depth in my digital exhibit, though, the topic was so broad and my timeline covered so many years that I did not think it would be possible to do so without making the exhibit seem more like a research paper. However, I enjoyed being able to focus on a topic of my choice and having total control of what I did with the exhibit. While I have some previous experience in creating small exhibits from my Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship two years ago, this built off of what I already learned and gave me some more idependence to choose my own topic of interest.

I enjoyed the experience and though it was a different way of expanding my knowledge on the topic. I feel that it definitely gave me a valuable experience and knowledge that I will be able to use for future projects.

Anthracite Heritage Museum 8/8/2022-8/11/2022

Kendall Williams

Kendall Williams

This week was my final week of my Keystone Summer Internship.

We started the week with a few new projects. Our first project was to organize and check the inventory of a collection that was transferred from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania of records and other documents from the United Mine Workers of America.

There were dozens of boxes, so Ethan and I started by organizing them into their proper series and subseries. Then we began to go through the inventory to check to make sure we had all of the items, and to make corrections if needed.

We also had the opportunity to inventory the collection the museum took from the Dunmore Historical Society about the Pennsylvania Gravity Railroad. This is the collection that I had the opportunity to go see a few weeks prior. I took photos so that John could see the artifacts and decide whether he would be interested in putting them into the collection.

Ethan and I went through the collection together and inventoried the artifacts and other documents that came with the collection.

On Tuesday, we had the opportunity to meet the Bureau Director for the PHMC, Melissa Mann. She told us about the organization, it’s mission, and how the sites work together, as well as about her career path and what she does as director. It was insightful to hear from someone who is in a director position as opposed to working at a site, and to hear about the differences and challenges of her position as opposed to some of the others in the PHMC.

On Thursday, we visited the Museum of Anthracite Mining in Ashland to check the inventory of their collection. Because they do not own the artifacts, the exhibit hall has to be checked yearly to make sure all artifacts and objects are accounted for. We split up the list and went through the hall and made sure the artifacts were there with the proper display.

After we finished at Ashland, we returned to Eckley to finish the rest of the day. There, we continued to pack artifacts and wrote an inventory for each box.

I had a fulfilling final week at my internship, and I enjoyed working at the Anthracite Heritage Museum again this summer. I am glad I had the opportunity to build off of my previous internship, and I think I had a well rounded experience here. We did many different projects over the summer, and I got to do more public outreach, which was very helpful to me as I have had very little experience with it in the past. This internship was a wonderful way for me to experience working in a museum with a curator, and gave me some insight as to what my future career could look like. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work here, and it allowed me to build my skills and to give me some experience in museum work.

Anhracite Heritage Museum 8/1/2022-8/4/2022

Kendall Williams

Kendall Williams

This week Ethan and I continued to work independently on projects as John was away for a conference.

I continued to inventory the collection of photographs I had been working on in the prior week. It was predominately breaker photographs with some pictures of miners and mine disasters.

I also continued to digitize the collection of photographs of different geological and architectural features of the coal regions of Pennsylvania.

I finished both of these projects that week, so that we could start new projects for our final week.

Anthracite Heritage Museum 7/25/2022-7/28/2022

Kendall Williams

Kendall Williams

This week I had the opportunity to visit the Dunmore Historical Society to see what they had in their collection. The society, unfortunately, is no longer running, so they invited people from other historical sites and museums to view their collections to see if they were interested in taking any items into their own.

I went alone to the meeting as John had to go pick up a collection at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. The Historical Society had some artifacts relating to coal mining history. There were a few maps, a folder of documents, and a collection that related to the Pennsylvania Gravity Railroad.

The most interesting object was the rail, which was actually from the gravity railroad itself. I took photos and notes about the collection and brought back what I had to show John later in the week.

We also went to Eckley again, where I continued to pack more artifacts and created inventories for each of the boxes.

Anthracite Heritage Museum 7/18/2022-7/21/2022

Kendall Williams

Kendall Williams

This week I had some new projects to work on. There were some requests for photographs for different projects, so I worked on scanning them so that they could be sent to the people requesting them. One request was for photographs of Susquehanna Coal Company Breakers, and another was for photographs from the 1902 Coal Strike.

I also got the opportunity to inventory more photographs. This time, it was photographs of different breakers from the Anthracite area, as well as some photographs of mine workers and mine disasters. I continued to scan more photographs from my project from the previous week as well.

Because John was back from vacation, we were able to go to Eckley Miner’s Village again on Thursday. That day we began packing artifacts into boxes. Because Eckley does not have much storage space, some homes are used as storage units. However, the homes do become somewhat dirty, meaning that dust can build up on artifacts, which could attract water and cause rot or rust. In order to better protect them, we began to clean the artifacts and move them into boxes that were padded with foam. This ensures the objects are kept away from dust and dirt and are secure so that they will not break.

I enjoyed being able to work in both settings this week. I think that it represents the many different roles a curator may fill at a smaller museum or historical site.

Anthracite Heritage Museum 7/5/2022-7/14/2022

Kendall Williams

Kendall Williams

I grouped these weeks together because our supervisor, John, was on vacation, so I worked throughout the two weeks on one project.

During my last internship at the Anthracite Heritage Museum, a collection of photographs of different geological and architectural features in the Anthracite region was donated to the museum. The original intent was that the collection would remain at the museum for future use. However, because the photographs were taken by a state employee, the State Museum wanted to house the collection at their facility instead.

Before they went, though, I began the process of scanning the photographs and labeling them. This way, they will still be able to be used and accessed even if they have not been processed through the State Museum’s employees.

The pictures covered a range of subjects, such as ruins of canal locks, iron blast furnaces, and buldings; coal, fossils, mine shafts and openings, coal breakers, and geographical features. It was interesting to see what these places looked like after many years of not being in use, such as the furnaces and locks. Some furnaces had been refurbished and were part of historical sites, while others were in ruin and overgrown by plants in the forest, and the only part left of many of the canal locks were stone pillars. It is helpful to have the photographs to be able to preserve these places in another way, and to act as a way for people to visualize what these places that may not be accessible are like.

Anthracite Heritage Museum 6/26/2022-6/30/2022

Kendall Williams

Kendall Williams

This week we started on Sunday, and we got to give a tour to a small group at the Iron Furnaces. I was excited to give a tour for the first time, and I think that it went well. We had a group of about 8 people who came for the tour, which in total lasted about a half hour. We discussed the time prior to the furnaces being built, their development, how they worked, how the business evolved and grew, and its eventual closure. I enjoyed doing the tour and liked being able to answer questions that the group had about the furnaces.

For the rest of the week at the museum we worked on updating files in Argus. We updated the locations and web descriptions of some artifacts that were accessioned early on at the museum. It was important that the files were updated, as it makes the items far easier to locate and use.

On Tuesday, I had another opportunity to help with public outreach. I was able to visit an elementary school with another worker from the museum for an outreach program to educate kids about the coal mining industry. I helped show some items to the group as they learned about the formation of coal, how it was mined, and the culture around the coal mining industry.

On Thursday at Eckley, we helped to clean a coal cracker that is going to be moved into the visitor’s center at Eckley. The machine was used to break down coal into useable lumps by an individual who was running a bootleg mining operation. Eventually, the coal cracker was just for personal use, and then was left behind. The coal cracker is essentially a miniature version of a breaker. Hopefully, before it is moved inside, it will be operated one last time so that a video can be taken of how the machine operates.

I very much enjoyed all the different projects I got to help with this week. Public work has been interesting and helpful for me to do, as I have not done very much of it before. It was also interesting to work on cleaning the coal cracker, and to be part of restoring the machine somewhat.

Anthracite Heritage Museum 6/19/2022-6/21/2022

Kendall Williams

Kendall Williams

This week was a short week because of the Juneteenth holiday. Unfortunately, I was sick this week so I did miss some time. However, I was able to come in to help finish up the inventory of the oral history collection that we were working on last week. I also got to go over the details of our tour at the Iron Furnaces, and I re-read over the book that we were given to learn more about them. I unfortunately missed going to Eckley this week because I was feeling unwell, but I will be back during the weekend to give the tour with Ethan, so I will still have the opportunity to do some work outside of the museum.

Anthracite Heritage Museum 6/13/2022-6/16/2022

Kendall Williams

Kendall Williams

This week Ethan and I worked on a project of cataloging oral histories from a local project by Professor Robert Wolensky.

The collection was of oral histories from locals, such as miners, families of miners, politicians, and union members. I was excited to catalog the collection because it gave me the chance to read through some of the oral histories, which is something that I have not had the opportunity to do very much before. I found interesting interviews with political activists, former miners, those who had family members die in mine disasters, and more.

Together Ethan and I went through the boxes and cataloged them, which took time because there were multiple boxes to go through, each filled with folders. The interviews were over decades; they went from the 60’s up until the early 2000’s.

This week we also began to prepare for an upcoming Iron Furnaces tour. Ethan and I will give a tour together to a small group, so we researched the Iron Furnaces and made a visit there to learn more about them. It was helpful to visit them beforehand so I could better visualize how they would have ran and what they would have looked like while they were in operation. It made reading about them more understandable and made me feel better prepared to give a tour. I was also excited that I will get to do some public facing work, as I have very limited experience in that field.

Anthracite Heritage Museum 6/6/2022-6/9/2022

Kendall Williams

I started my first week back at the Anthracite Heritage Museum for the summer. This summer, I am working with another intern who was taken on at the museum, so we will be able to collaborate on larger projects.

Because it is our first week, we had a sort of orientation to get adjusted to work there. For the first day, I did online training as mandated by the state for employees. For the next few days, I had the chance to help put newly accessioned items into Argus, the cataloging program used by the PHMC. This is something I had done in my internship in the spring, but I appreciated being able to do it again to get a reminder on how the process works and to help the other intern, Ethan, learn how to use the program.

On Wednesday, we went to Eckley Miner’s Village. I had never been to the site before, nor have I ever worked at a historical site, so I was excited to learn that we would be going weekly as part of our internship. We got to tour the village and see the storage areas for artifacts. We got to view a show house that is interpreted as an average 1950’s home in Eckley. We spent the rest of the day cleaning the artifacts in the house.

I was excited to come back to the museum and my first week had already allowed me to expand more on my previous internship. I am excited to continue to work both at the museum and Eckley, as I think it will give me a well-rounded educational experience.